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December 14, 2013

US faces new pressure over missing CIA contractor

(Continued)

"We now need to make sure that everyone, jointly in the government, is working to make sure that he comes home," Deutch said. "There is a father and husband who is the longest-held American hostage, and we all need to work together to make sure that he comes home safely. This is an issue that should matter to everyone in this country."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he would "be seeking an update as soon as possible on the Robert Levinson case from the intelligence community, and hope there may be a new window opening in which we can get answers from Iran."

The AP first confirmed Levinson's CIA ties in 2010 and continued investigating. It agreed three times to delay publishing the current story because the government said it was pursuing promising leads to get him home.

The AP is reporting the story now because, nearly seven years after his disappearance, those leads have repeatedly come up empty. The government has not received any sign of life since photos and a video in late 2010 and early 2011. Top U.S. officials, meanwhile, say his captors almost certainly already know about his CIA association.

"I hope this information does not impede the release of Mr. Levinson in any way," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Many in the intelligence community believe this will push his captors to take his life. I pray this is not the case. The U.S. government is doing everything within its power to find Mr. Levinson and bring him home."

Carney called the AP report "highly irresponsible."

It's not clear what effect the new revelations about Levinson will have on diplomacy between Washington and Tehran — or even if leaders in both capitals were already aware of them, said Jon Alterman, the Middle East Program Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"But it's not immediately good when a story comes out that you weren't honest about a spy you had working against the other country," Alterman said. "In terms of the mood, it means the U.S. has something to apologize about and the Iranians have something to complain about."

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Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report.

Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP

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